April 24, 2012

Virtual Paintout: Keying a Painting

Dress in Window, St Petersburg Russia oil on board 9"X12"

 This painting was created using GoogleStreet Views and posted on The Virtual Paintout  which is hosted by Bill Guffey.  At the beginning of  each month, artists are given a new place in the world to explore using Google Maps, Street Views. I enjoy "walking around" and choosing a scene to paint and while I am looking I learn quite a lot about the area. 

It is amazing what Google has done with their cameras and what you can see and learn about a location when you zoom in using the street view icon, which is a little man on the distance bar. It is also interesting to see what other people have chosen to paint. Here is the link to see the  The Virtual Paintout: St Petersburg Russia paintings, including my painting, "Dress In Window".

  Blue Jeans on Roof   9" x 12" oil on canvas on birch plywood, brush and pallet knife
 The painting "Blue Jeans on Roof" is from a view I found in the Canary Islands. You can see the other paintings in this challenge at 
 The Virtual Paintout: Canary Islands.

 You can see my Virtual Paintout Series with more information on  these paintings on my Website.

Keying the Painting:  

It is interesting when comparing these paintings side by side, both depict an overcast day but they have a different Key. 

The painting on the left is St Petersburg Russia, which is in a far northern location, it is predominantly a darker subdued color.  This would be considered a "low key". While the painting on the right is  the Canary Islands, which is near the equator and is a light toned painting in a "high key".  Keying a painting is not about the color but the value. Is the painting in a darker shade or lighter shade?

 While looking at St Petersburg Russia on the Google Street View Map, I saw the photograph as being dark, yet bright. To create this effect I stained the canvas with a silvery blue gray underpainting, using ultramarine blue and raw umber. These colors were also the main dark colors throughout the painting. A yellow ochre was scumbled and brush worked into the stone building. The dark underpainting effected the tonal value of the ochre without diminishing it's intensity. 

The Canary Island painting on the right was painted using a burnt sienna underpainting. A white mixed with some ultramarine blue were  stroked into the sky and building, using pallet knife. These are the predominant colors used along with yellows and mixed greens. This created a bright light value or high key, in keeping with this subject's equatorial setting. 

Deciding on the key of the painting before you begin will help make a painting cohesive and expressive.

Aleada Siragusa

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